On March 17 2023, the Australian government released the Productivity Commission’s latest 5-year Productivity Inquiry report. At well over a thousand pages, few people are going to read it to the level it deserves. Nor will I, but I have dipped into it and found a couple of important comments that relate directly to the management of occupational health and safety (OHS).
Getting the (political) balance right
One can never accuse politicians of deep or systems thinking on the issues and policies for which they are responsible. Victoria’s Minister for WorkSafe, Danny Pearson, spoke at a press conference on March 6, 2023, about the viability of the workers’ compensation systems, which he described as broken, during a substantial increase in claims for workplace mental injury. Premier Dan Andrews has spoken of this matter since and with a similar perspective – politics rather than occupational health and safety (OHS).
How this issue develops over the next month may determine who speaks for the government at the April 28 Workers Memorial event.
OHS is now a fundamental human right. So what?
Last year the International Labour Organization (ILO) added occupational health and safety (OHS) to its Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. So what? I hear you cry. According to one trade union website:
“Contrary to Conventions – which are subject to ratification by individual Member States to be applicable, all Member States (187 Members) are expected to respect, promote and realize Fundamental Principles and Rights .”
This change has been a long time coming. Expect to hear a lot of discussion about this change at the 23rd World Congress in Sydney later this year, if not Ap[ril 28 and May Day. What Australia will say about this change is unknown, but it will be expected to say something.
Big consultancies sully their own nest
Large consulting firms have been getting a hammering lately. Fraud, leaking information, work-related suicides, corruption, unethical behaviour……. I bet they are nostalgic for the good old days when they were primarily auditors. There are several occupational health and safety (OHS) connections with the Big4, Big3 or Big 7. Auditing is the obvious overlap, but several recent books have identified some other strange relationships with Government that affect policy that, in turn, affect OHS. This is a brief look at one of those books – The Big Con.
Limited perspectives on working hours
On March 8, 2023, Giuseppe Carabetta, Associate Professor, University of Technology Sydney, wrote about how the current dispute between Politician Monique Ryan and her former Chief of Staff, Sally Rugg, could open the door to lots of legal action through the courts and the Fair Work Commission. Sadly the occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation is mentioned but does not feature. Let’s look at what he said and missed.
Odd OHS comments from the Master Builders
Every year the Australian government releases a budget explaining what it plans to do over the next 12 months or longer. Business groups and trade unions often release documents submitted to the government, although whether the government requests this is unclear. Recently the Master Builders of Australia (MBA) sent through its submission (not yet publicly available). It has some interesting comments on the responsibility for occupational health and safety (OHS) and responsibility.
Engineered stone and deadly silica risks seem here to stay
So Australia did not ban the importation of engineered stone. The Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) have issued a Communique and a joint media release outlining their decision. It’s a political slap in the face to the trade unions who went hard on the ban.
Many organisations supported the call to ban the importation and use of engineered stone due to the unacceptable risk associated with cutting the product. Many were strident in need for the ban. Even the Federal Minister for Workplace Relations, Tony Burke, was talking tough on the morning of the critical meeting of the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities. So what went wrong?